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End of Term Report Part 5 15/06/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

20- Matěj Vydra

…has an awful lot to answer for.  More specifically, that ludicrous comic-book goal in the televised win at the Amex has a lot to answer for.  As he flew past Brighton’s astonished defence, you could all but see the speech bubbles emerging from the crowd “Wow, look at that kid go!”.  “Yes, he’s making Adam look like a cart horse”.  Except that by the time the supporters in question got that lot out, in real time rather than freeze frame, the ball was in the back of the net and Vydra was reeling off in celebration.  A goalscorer, plain and simple, whose movement, pace and faultless finishing made him absolutely unplayable on a good day.

And “a lot to answer for” is at least partly tongue in cheek.  That goal, sandwiched in the centre of a particularly prolific month-and-a-bit which saw him grab five braces, ten goals, caught everyone else’s eye as well.  Even Ian Holloway’s, who as a manager of (at different times) two of our rivals naturally had had no cause to notice our recruitment strategy until mere hours before being captured for a handy soundbite pre-match in February.  After which,after the glut of tedious guff concerning our “use of the loan market” he was slightly less effective, whether as a consequence of extra attention or fatigue, form, luck, distraction or a combination of some or all of these.

In that movement and the icy precision in front of goal, Vydra echoed Kevin Phillips;  the bit of extra pace made him a terrifying weapon.  Until February, when the goals stopped… and even then their were echoes of Superkev’s periods of uncertainty and introspection in the period that followed.  He exploded into form again in the play-offs… there were hints of it at the KP Stadium, an absolute masterclass at Vicarage Road… and then disaster at Wembley, when his injury limited our effectiveness.  Looking back now, that’s as much of a choker as anything… Palace outplayed us, some of our players didn’t show up, others were injured.  And yet they still only won it in Extra Time, via a penalty.  It wouldn’t have taken a lot, would it…

Next Season:  The Pozzo mantra has been that the top players get sold only to the top clubs and only for the right money.  Vydra (and, evidently, his agent) are the likeliest to test that resolve over the summer.

21- Ikechi Anya

Early doors, I must confess, I wasn’t convinced.  Careful and deliberate as I am in passing judgement on new players, I think it must have been Ikechi’s debut twenty-minutes or so as a cameo in the grotesque home defeat to Ipswich that had me writing him off… a whirligig winger, 99% enthusiasm, 1% control, 0% end product.  We’d seen plenty of his sort before.

Except… it wasn’t like that at all.  Anya’s trajectory over the course of the season proved to be as impressive as anyone’s… that his pace was a potent weapon was clear as early as the trips to Leeds and Blackpool in November, from which point he was worth a place on the bench at least.  Pretty soon he was holding down a starting place thanks to a defensive discipline that matured very quickly, an unlikely strength in the air and extraordinary stamina that culminated with that goal against Leicester when despite having played wing back three times in a week, he sprinted a third of the length of the pitch in the 97th minute in the build up to Deeney’s goal.

There’s still a question mark over the reliability of the final ball, if we’re honest, the tendency to dawdle in attacking positions not doing his forwards any favours.  But he’s a versatile, utterly likeable asset.

Next Season:  You’d have him back like a shot.  Fingers crossed.

22- Almen Abdi

The thing about creative midfielders is that they’re not supposed to be reliable.  Flighty, mercurial, yes.  Perhaps the likes of John Eustace, capable of making things happen, are reliable but they’re not primarily creative in their function, that’s not the point.  So someone like Almen Abdi, who can be relied upon to put a shift in and be a source of goals, assists, mischief is a rare jewel indeed.

It would be wrong to suggest that Abdi never had a bad game; they came along now and again, and he was also guilty of disappearing during games on occasions.  But these occasions were vastly outweighed by the times that he pinged one of his viciously reliable free kicks towards the top corner, or sent through yet another slide-rule through ball that seemed as effortless as if someone was controlling him with a Pro-Evolution Soccer Playstation remote with a finger permanently hovering over the “through-ball” green triangle.

An absolute triumph then, one of the jewels of the season; few could begrudge him the Player of the Season award in a year when many made a case for the accolade.

Next Season: Must surely be a priority in terms of retaining some of these loan stars.

25- Joe Garner

Inevitably in a series like this at this point after this season you find yourself looking back at some of those whose Watford careers appeared to have been over as soon as the takeover happened;  the comments sections of the previous installments reflect as much, however much we’ve enjoyed and appreciated the sense in what has happened since.  So… Martin Taylor, might have struggled a bit since he left but a good egg, would have been happy if he’d stuck around.  Prince Buaben, probably had something that we never quite got out of him.  Stephen McGinn… bad injury, crying shame, but still, there might still be a player there.  Dicko… whatever his limitations, commitment and guts weren’t problems.  You’ve got to root for a guy like that.

Joe Garner.  Ah.

The thing is, when you’re scrabbling around for options, a striker’s failings are the most obvious.  A midfielder who’s not quite up to scratch can disguise this – and still contribute something – by running around a lot, bluntly.  A defender’s failings in positioning, say, or communication are perhaps less obvious from the stands.  But when your budget is limited and you’re looking for squad players, perhaps, for options, you’re going to get a few turkeys.  And a striker who’s struggling has nowhere to hide.  Joe Garner never looked better than “about to make an impact” or ” perhaps he’s got something”.  He never delivered on the odd suggestion of a level of awareness that might help oil our forward line, and certainly never delivered the glut of goals that my Dad for one, for reasons infathomable, insisted was just around the corner…

Next Season: After a briefly prolific loan at Carlisle, Joe was released and joined Preston in January.  He has yet to score for his new side, but appears to remain part of Simon Grayson’s plans for the coming season.

27- Marco Cassetti

I know that the “Cool as Cassetti” thing is hardly an insight, hardly something that you needed pointing out.  Nonetheless it’s impossible to avoid. Marco is all but a caricature.  His languid, effortless brilliance simply oozes “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”-ness and the level of anticipation which has enabled a veteran Italian international to adapt to the English second tier has been an absolute joy.  You can still picture it in your mind’s eye… read the play, amble in, take the ball without making a challenge, stride into space, stop for a cigarette, shuffle on, dink a perfect through ball, admire handiwork like a painter stepping back from his masterpiece, nod approvingly.  All without breaking sweat.  Pure class.

In truth, Marco’s passage was far from effortless;  having scarcely played for Roma the previous season he visibly took time to acclimatise.  Initially he was fielded as a wing back, and whilst we benefited hugely from the quality of his delivery – he provided eight assists in the five months following his introduction in mid-September – his vulnerability to a tricky winger was evident long before extra time at Wembley.

Nonetheless, a huge asset over the course of the season, and no small coup for us to have recruited a player of this calibre whatever the circumstances.  And enormous fun to watch, which is the whole point of the exercise after all.

Next Season: One imagines that Marco would see rather more action in central positions, particularly if we retain the three at the back…  Lloyd, Marco and a bruiser does rather cover all the bases.  But as with so many, we wait and see what the summer negotiations bring.



1. thanet horn - 15/06/2013

As always excellent comments, Abdi was probably my favourite of the loans because he was influential in many ways , mainly goals and assists, Rarely in recent years have we seen such quality, His peach of a free kick against Wolves will live long in the memory, I saw him get an excellent goal v Leicester from Fernandos pass He usually put in a good shift, player of the season was a good shout.
Anya erratic at first but later proved to have bags of skill and pace
Cassetti his skill class and professionalism were evident from early on and he got better, Agree his ability to read the game from centre back made him look better achiles heel was tricky wing backs going at him, but what do you expect at 35, youd still snap him up, As you would the others,
Vydra on his game maybe the best finisher ive seen in a Watford shirt, Mo Johnston another comparison , as we didnt go up it seems we wont see him again, Rumour miil is linking Chelski to him at the moment,
Garner a shame not good enough, like Mirfin he wasnt one of dyches best choices of the ones released Yeates, mcginn and Bauben were the ones i rated at different times
I suppose they ultimately got it right but Yeates could have been good as back up

2. petebradshaw - 15/06/2013

What is your prognosis for #26 Britt Assombalonga? I think he might feature next season in the same way as Hoban and Smith although the striker role makes him exposed as per Garner. But stats at Southend, and his temperament as seen at fans forum, indicates little comparison there.

Matt Rowson - 15/06/2013

Haven’t seen enough of him Pete, which is why I had to skip him. He tailed off a bit at Southend, goalscoringwise… we’ll see what ver management think of him in where he ends up this season.

3. Roger Smith - 16/06/2013

Of all the wondrous goals from last season, the one that sticks in my mind was Deeney’s second away at Birmingham. The discussion about Anya on the Football League Show shows the whole thing, and not just the finish. Vydra is no slouch out of defence, but even he is outpaced by Anya busting a gut to take the pass and lay on a pin-point cross for Deeney to finish.

I felt sorry for Vydra towards the end of the season as, sublime finisher that he is, he just wasn’t getting the same service. He’s at his best before the opposing defence has had time to get organised, but that relies on the quick break, and our build-up was simply too slow. I’m not sure he’s Premiership standard yet, for that reason.

I never rated Cassetti as a wing back, but he did OK as an emergency centre back, although lacking the physical presence that Fitz provided. However, I’d love to see him in the Chalobar role, where his ability to read the game and find the telling pass could energise the whole side. And if he becomes a Watford player rather than a loanee, he would be a natural choice of captain.

4. Weymouth Orn - 16/06/2013

Agree with Matt about Cassetti.
Just a passing thought – I reckon Mariappa would have been terrific in this side.

5. Wrighty - 16/06/2013

Matej Vydra, Almen Abdi & Marco Cassetti, how spoiled have we been this season, feels like a dream now we’re in that no football limbo period

6. Lloyd Arkill - 17/06/2013

Good to see from your Vydra comments that you’ve completely come to terms with the play off defeat! Me neither

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